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Thread: Gibson mandolin repair and parts

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    Certified! Bernie Daniel's Avatar
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    In answer to a question about a player wanting to put a new fingerboard on his Gibson F5 the following quote was made in another string on the Cafe:

    Quote Originally Posted by
    Big Joe: Mark...Gibson does not sell parts like that to consumers. #Unfortunately they only use them in manufacturing and even the repair department must get them from where they can (often Cumberland Acoustics), though they DO NOT buy them pre-fretted. #That would be a real mistake. #Even then they must be fitted to the existing neck to fit perfectly.
    Now three things to set the stage: #1) I have 6 Gibson mandolins both new and vintage -- in fact I have only brand Gibson for my mandolins, guitars and banjos -- so by deduction I am not hostile to the company.

    2) Big Joe is a former high ranking Gibson employee so he should know the company policy -- and he was only trying to help the OP.

    3) My conversations with folks in Gibson repair like Danny Roberts and others have been very pleasant.

    But for the life of me I cannot imagine why a company wants to sell you an expensive mandolin and then tell you sorry we do not sell fingerboards bridges, pickguards, inlay or anything else - save strings. #Can you even buy a tailpice or a truss rod cover from Gibson?

    In fact even the Gibson repair shop out sources for mandolin parts. #If this is good public relations and customer support then I am a monkey's uncle. (pass the banannas).

    What would happen if you wanted a Fender fingerboard or even a Gibson guitar fingerboard or a banjo part -- same thing?

    When most of us old guys die off will there be any folks willing to shell out extra for the name Gibson on the headstock?

    I do realize this policy keeps good companys like Cumberland Acoustic in business so that is one upside.

    I have no interest in bashing Gibson - I just wonder how and when a policy like that got started -- in 1970 a luthier bought a rosewood bridge for a Gibson guitar from the factory in Kalamazoo and repaired my guitar -- when did things change?
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    Strange are the ways of the Gibson Musical Instrument Company.
    Passernig #42

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    Mike Parks woodwizard's Avatar
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    Under warranty of the original owner you wouldn't have a a problem I think. But many are not original owners and are left out in the cold. I use to have a A5L I purchaced brand new and while visiting the showcase one time I asked if I could purchase a backup new gold tailpiece for it sense I usually put a lot of wear on a tailpiece. First was told probably not then was told I could sense I was really a owner of the A5L. They were very nice. Eric Sullivan said a lot of people buy Gibson parts to resale and they frown on that and that was what they were watching out for. This was right around or just before Gibson cut down their dealers to just a few. Danny Roberts has been a big help to me in the past. But sometimes Gibson is hard to figure out for sure. They still make my favorite instrument tho.
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    Registered User Chris Biorkman's Avatar
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    I think this is a big part of the reason why more and more people are gravitating to other brands these days. Gibson needs to realize that people have options now and such business practices don't really endear them to the public.
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    Registered User jim_n_virginia's Avatar
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    There are a lot of companies and not just musical instruments, that will sell you the machine, product, thing whatever but they are not in the business of selling you parts.

    I trhink it doesn't have anything to do with customer relations but more of a business decision. I mean if you stock parts then you stock all parts, then you need part inventry, people to work the parts department, it turns into a whole separate sub department.

    I could see where someone might not want to go that way business wise.

    I will say this... maybe Gibson doesn't sell parts but once when I need one they sent it to me free. In fact they sent me four of the parts I needed. I'd call that pretty good customer service.

    Wouldn't it just be easy enough to find out where Gibson gets it's parts and get it straight from the source? Probably save you money too.

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    Certified! Bernie Daniel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by
    There are a lot of companies and not just musical instruments, that will sell you the machine, product, thing whatever but they are not in the business of selling you parts.
    Not to be argumentative but not many companies like that come quickly to mind -- in fact aren't a large percentage of companies in the "razor blade business" -- the razor is free but the blades will cost you etc.

    What would you say to a Ford dealer who told you "No we do not carry wheel bearings for your Escape -- you could try calling Timken"

    OTOH, nice that you were able to get the Gibson parts you needed. Wonder it that would happen today?
    Bernie
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    Registered User Chris Biorkman's Avatar
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    I doubt if you were to contact Weber or Collings that they would refer you to a third party vendor to get replacement parts. I'm sure that Gibson has great people working for them as they have in the past (Derrington, Big Joe, and others), but they have definitely been doing things, as a corporation, that are bad for retaining the future business of many acoustic, and more specifically bluegrass musicians, in the years to come.

    They don't really make most of the parts for their banjos, instead assembling parts made by other companies and charging a huge premium for the name on the headstock. I would venture to say that the brand has lost a lot of prestige in recent years, especially since newcomers like Huber are putting out such a great product at a competitive price.

    They bought the Dobro brand name and have run it into the ground.

    Same with Flatiron.

    We are in an age of unprecedented skill and options in acoustic luthiery and unless Gibson makes some changes in the way they operate, I think they are going to see their market share decrease in the years to come. My intention isn't to "bash" Gibson. I know they make some great instruments, so no flaming please.
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    Quote Originally Posted by
    Can you even buy a tailpice or a truss rod cover from Gibson?
    Yes.
    "bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them"

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    First remember they are a manufacturing facility and not a retail conglomerate. Thier first concern is for building instruments. They order parts as needed for the runs they do. They do NOT sell parts to consumers but will make them available to authorized warranty centers when they are available. Of course, many of the sources are not that secretive and the parts can be obtained elsewhere if needed. It is not intended to be a pain to the consumer, it is designed to protect the quantity needed for manufacture and to force the consumer to the authorized repair centers rather than do the work themselves.

    I have no dog in this argument either way, just explaining things a bit. While I ran the repair/ restoration division we had the same frustration when parts were not available for periods of time. In retail we were always at the mercy of the individual division for the parts. I could usually get them for either division if I worked hard enough on it. It usually took getting hooked up with someone from that particular division who would be kind to me and let me have the parts I should have had readily available (we were Gibson after all). Nonetheless, I could understand the dilemma each division faced in the parts arena.
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    Mike Parks woodwizard's Avatar
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    Not that very long ago Danny Roberts from Gibson mailed me some extra pearl knobs and those little gold screws when I called him up and told him one of my pearl key knobs cracked. I thought that was pretty good service. So far I haven't anything to complain about personally and a lot to be happy that I am a Gibson customer. Just thought I mention that. I'm sure there are some unhappy campers out there. I'm just not one.
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    Registered User Chris Biorkman's Avatar
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    To me it doesn't sound like the people who have problems are the original, warranty holding owners. I've never heard of any of them having problems.
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    When Charlie or I were there we did all we could to accomadate the customers needs. We tried to go out of our way to do the right thing for every customer. Danny is doing the same and he is one of the finest people you could ever know. If one cannot get what they want from the retail or repair divisions it is not because the employees of those divisions don't want to help. It is simply that they cannot. Danny will go out of his way to help anyone when it is possible and he has a reputation for doing that. Please remember these guys are doing a job that can be frustrating to them also. They work very hard to overcome the obstacles that often face any job one must do. I think they do a great job considering everything.
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    I think it would be fair to say that Gibson OAI has had (and still has) some great, dedicated people doing the best they can, in a disfunctional corporate structure.
    I work for a company like that.
    In spite of all of the pitfalls we actually manage to acheive some good results sometimes too

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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    From what Big Joe's saying,it looks as though Gibson themselves have a difficult time sourcing parts for any repair they wish to make,that can't be good.
    Having worked in a manufacturing industry all my life,i understand about carrying stocks of parts that may not be used for months,even years & having cash tied up in that stock - hence the fact that the majority of companies employ a "just-in-time" policy
    for the sourcing of parts. That way they only get 'what they need' in the 'quantities they want' 'when the parts are required'. The Japanese have a word for it "Kanban".From what i remember having seen a TV programme about this many years ago,the "just-in-time" principle was an American invention employed in the Auto.industry.However,the Japanese took it to heart & in their usual methodic manner perfected it & exported the principle.
    I read an article quite a few years ago,written by a guy who was in the HI-Fi manufacturing industry,making very well known record turntables. He employed the "just-in-time" principle within his company. He decided to visit a japanese company to fully understand how they employed "just-in-time2 & was very surprised to find that they did indeed carry stock of certain critical items that if not available,would halt production.
    So not only did they persue a "just-in-time" policy,they also employed a "just-in-case" policy. I can't understand Gibson not enabling their employees to obtain parts/materials they require in order to do their jobs as fully as they would wish.
    Although Big Joe points out some mitigating circumstances in his post above,it really does not send out a good message to would-be Gibson owners. A 'frustrated' workforce can only be detrimental. All in all,it would seem like Gibson have maybe 'lost the plot' a little,which is a shame,
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    Registered User jim_n_virginia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by (saska @ April 09 2008, 02:05)
    A 'frustrated' workforce can only be detrimental. All in all,it would seem like Gibson have maybe 'lost the plot' a little,which is a shame,
    # # # # # # # # # # # #Saska
    Frustrated workforce? where do you get that?

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    [QUOTE= (Mandolin1944 @ April 08 2008, 23:20)]
    What would you say to a Ford dealer who told you "No we do not carry wheel bearings for your Escape -- you could try calling Timken"

    OTOH, nice that you were able to get the Gibson parts you needed. #Wonder it that would happen today?
    There are many companies out there that will not sell you parts and NOT just because thet want to be difficult but they have their reasons.

    I'll give you one example... I bought last year an XD-45 Springfield .45 caliber handgun from Springfield Arms, one of the oldest and respected firearms makers in the country and they will not sell parts to this handgun. You have to send it in to their gunsmiths and they will take care of it. And it is not a money issue because any Springfield firearm has a Lifetime Warranty even if you are not the original owner.

    The reason they don't sell parts is because they don't want wannabe home gunsmiths working on their product because they have a good name for quality and if some YOYO works on their stuff and it malfunctions later and it gets sold then people are blaming the company not someone who worked on the product who didn't know what they are doing.

    There are MANY valid reasons for not selling parts for a product that is sold.

    I could name you as many products that won't sell you parts as there are that will. It is purely a business decision nothing more or less.

    And not to be presumptious but YES I do believe Gibson would take care of me, there is a good bunch of guys over there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by (biorkman @ April 08 2008, 23:51)
    My intention isn't to "bash" Gibson. I know they make some great instruments, so no flaming please.
    You Gibson bashers crack me up!

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    Well thanks for all the comments. #What is is.

    Like I said originally I just find this an unfortunate situation and I wonder if it is not one that could be handled much more expeditiously -- that is the company deciding to take a more cumstomer oriented approach to their business? #It is a no brainer I think.

    It is good the original owners of Gibson mandolins are supported - but does it not diminish the value of your Gibson vis a vis your selling it when the potential buyer is aware of the company policy towards the second and subsequent owners of this fine instrument?

    I think it becomes more of an issue with the vintage instruments. #Where would you be if you damaged the neck of a 1953 Gibson F-5 (wide headstock, block Gibson inlay and wider nut)? #I guess you'd have to have a luthier make it up from wood stock? #Or more typical what if you damaged one of the Flatiron era Gibsons with a bolt on neck?

    Gibson is back into dovetails and no longer has any new necks like that even though they have 200 customers out there with Bill Monroe signature series mandolins - for example.

    I think somewhere along the way the company lost a certain level of committment to their customers. #Restoring it might be a wise move.

    I would certainly guess that the number of top mandolin players that step up on stage with a Gibson mandolin will continue to diminish and I wonder what their market share in the mandolin world really is?

    Wonder if there would be money in it for Gibson to sell used instrument warranties?
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    Registered User jim_n_virginia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by (Mandolin1944 @ April 09 2008, 06:20)
    I think somewhere along the way the company lost a certain level of committment to their customers. #
    Sorry I completely disagree with that. But thats OK I disagree with a LOT of folks!

    I think Gibson is at the top of their game and making the best instruments they have ever made.

    I think the issue is that there are always those who will dislike whoever is on top.

    Microsoft is a good example.

    All I know is at any jam, festival, workshop or concert Gibson seems to dominate.

    And yes there are a lot of really great builders out there but never forget that most of them are building a Gibson copies.

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    Read Big Joe's post above - Quote :- "... Please remember these guys are doing a job that can be frustrating to them also", kindly note that i am also NOT bashing Gibson,i'm just at a loss as to why the workforce should be 'frustrated' for any reason at all. I also agree with your statement that most other builders are building to a Gibson 'design',i hesitate to say that they're 'copying'. I also agree that Gibson are probably making some of the best instruments that they've ever made,but if a prospective customer heard that only MAYBE,if his instrument were to develop a fault,it might take a while to get it sorted. That in itself is an 'unknown quantity',but it could deter some buyers - that's my point of view,
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    I think somebody misunderstood the quoted post in the OP. Gibson doesn't sell parts to consumers, that doesn't mean Gibson won't repair your instrument and replace a part if necessary. It means if you need a new fingerboard for your Gibson mandolin you are going to have to send it to Gibson or an authorized Gibson repair center. Then you wait while they make and install a new fingerboard.

    Mandolin fingerboards are not anything like wheel bearings. Most fingerboards never have to be replaced. It would be a business fiasco to try to keep every possible repair part in stock when most of those parts would never be needed.

    I'd be interested in the reactions you would get if you called a few repair folks and asked them to make a new fingerboard for your mandolin and then send it out to you so you can glue it on yourself.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    I'm going to guess that if you sent Gibson a 1950's mandolin to reneck that wasn't under warranty they would be happy to do it. They'd do a great job and you'd probably choke on the price. When I needed parts for my Gibson that was under warranty they sent them to me. When I needed parts for Gibson products I owned that were not under warranty they sent me a list of suppliers. It's obvious that they don't want to be in the retail parts business or they would have a division doing that. If another manufacturer chooses to be in that business more power to them. They see a place in the market they want to be in and they are there. You as a consumer have the ultimate power to not do business with the folks that don't operate the way you want them to. Everyone has choices.
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    Having been in the auto repair biz for years, then manufacturing of machinery, this is an interesting discussion. What I think is really interesting is the analogy of fingerboards and wheel bearings.

    I DO see them as the same in another respect. Wheel bearings like fingerboards, are a crucial part. If properly first installed and taken care of, last a loooong time. But can be installed wrong, wear out, be damaged and potentially be a custom part all the same. And neither in my book would warrant being made in house when they can be manufactured by a supplier, who that's their job. So, they can make it quicker, easier, and cheaper and leave the overall manufacturing to OAI. And going to like Cumberland, who supplies Gibson, is somehow not as good? I guess I don't get it. You have close to the same advantage as Gibson to get the same part, WITHOUT the middleman. How is that a bad thing?

    Wheel bearings are exactly the same. When I was having to work on Dodge motorhomes, you couldn't just go the parts book and get the right #. Depending on what run they were on, they would buy different axles, hubs, bearings, seals etc.. You needed the part in hand and get the #'s from it to get the right replacement. Almost any manufacturing that has bean counters and engineers in the loop are going to be like this. They want the most cost effective part that will do the same function, and go to their suppliers for it. What I call engineer to stock.

    I remember making a machine that needed a simple T-handle. Our engineer decided that we should make it in house. So, somebody had to fab the parts, machine it, then weld it, then paint it. 3 different depts. and took forever. When I pointed out to the engineer this was WAAAAAAAY more expensive than what we could buy the part for, of course he disagreed. He actually thought one guy was doing it. But ultimately the part we made didn't look a millionth as good as the one we could buy. How could it? We weren't set up to cast and produce that part.

    To me, that was the height of customer service to give you the list of suppliers. Not many manufacturers I know would do that.

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    Obviously you've never replaced a fingerboard.

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    Quote Originally Posted by
    Tom Tyrrell:I'd be interested in the reactions you would get if you called a few repair folks and asked them to make a new fingerboard for your mandolin and then send it out to you so you can glue it on yourself.
    Well you more or less set up that analogy and then answered your own question. #

    Obviously, most would not want to glue a fingerboard on themselves -- rather they would probably like to buy a fingerboard and have a luthier fit it up. #For most mandolins you could go to StewMac or whatever. #But what about a wide nut/neck F5?

    As to fingerboards usually never needing replacement that depends. #Sam Bush has had a number of new fingerboards installed on his mandolins -- and I assume other pros do too. But if you name is Sam the man Bush then getting the repair is not an issue (and I am not complaining about that).

    As to Mike's point the problem is most 1950 F mandolins are probably not under warrenty to the first owner -- they are on their 2nd, 3rd, or even 10th owner by now. #

    In my opinion, no one should expect that the Gibson factory should support free repairs -- but they might at least consider stocking parts for their products and yes even for the older oval hole A models, and F2's and F4's and necks with different joints. #

    Also as to the point made that you can always send the mandolin in to Gibson and wait for repairs -- again it depends. #

    About mid-year last I called Gibson repair and asked about the wisdom or acquiring -- for a pretty good price!--a Montana Gibson F-5 that had suffered a severe break on the neck including a partially crushed headstock and bent truss rod from being having been partially backed over while in an opened case. #

    A manager at Gibson the repair center did return my message but he told me that the Gibson repair center could not do the repair I wanted -- that is to install a new neck, fingerboard and headstock on that F-model which had the bolt on straight slot neck joint. (as an aside they told me a new neck on an F-model will cost 3,000 to 3,500 so it might not have been a winning idea in any case).

    But expensive or not I was told there was no way to re-neck it - even though it was a Gibson mandolin only about 25 years old at the time. #The reason was necks with those joints were longer made, there were no spare parts in stock, and they had no access the a replacement neck.

    But they are the Gibson factory aren't they? #I guess I could have better accepted the answer -- yes we can fix it for you but it will cost you over 3 grand! #

    They did offer to take a look into the possibilty of doing a repair using all with the damaged pieces with special glues for me. #But that did not appeal to me.
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